The bartender is back with Mariners

WilhelmsenChangeTom Wilhelmsen’s unique storyline with the Mariners took a new turn on Wednesday as the former bartender-turned-closer re-signed with the club on a one-year deal and joined the team in Detroit.

Wilhelmsen had 67 saves and a 2.97 ERA in 267 appearances with Seattle from 2011-15 after making a comeback in baseball following a five-year stint out of the game, but struggled badly in Texas this year after being traded to the Rangers. He was released by Texas last week after declining an outright to Triple-A in a move that forfeited about $1.8 million in remaining salary this season.

“He’ll be active on the roster today,” general manager Jerry Dipoto said. “We just want to get him back to where he was just last year. It’s not like we’re far removed from Tom Wilhelmsen being a very good Major League pitcher.

“Of all the offseason moves we made, trading Tom was one of the most difficult,” Dipto said. “He was a very stable and controllable bullpen guy. He’s comfortable here and we’re glad to get him back.”

To make room for Wilhelmsen, Seattle optioned right-hander Jonathan Aro to Triple-A Tacoma and transferred Charlie Furbush to the 60-day disabled list.

Wilhelmsen was traded to Texas along with outfielder James Jones and infielder Patrick Kivlehan in November in exchange for center fielder Leonys Martin and reliever Anthony Bass. Kivlehan also has rejoined the Mariners, reacquired in a trade for reliever Justin DeFratus, while Bass was released and is pitching in Japan.
Wilhelmsen, 32, was the Mariners’ primary closer in 2012-13, saving a combined 53 games. He was 2-2 with 13 saves and a 3.19 ERA in 53 games with Seattle last season, but was 2-3 with a 10.55 ERA in 21 appearances for Texas.

“We feel it was some combination of confidence, command and pitch selection,” Dipoto said of Wilhelmsen’s difficulties in Texas. “I don’t know if we’re any more magical than the Rangers in tapping that, but Tom has worked well here before, his teammates trust him and all the staff and everyone who’ve worked with him for years really like him.

“In the world of veteran Major League pitchers who have well-above average stuff and has a [Minor League] option, it was kind of a no-brainer for us. He fits.”

Wilhelmsen could be optioned to the Minors by the Mariners, since he does have an option remaining and is on their 40-man roster. The Rangers designated him for assignment last week, taking him off their 40-man roster, and thus opening the door for him to decline their outright assignment to Triple-A after he cleared waivers.

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